Monthly Archives: August 2014

Testimony of Financial Change Following D. Ramsey Class

For today’s Tuesday testimony, a Financial Peace University attendee’s demonstration of the change it brought to her. It sounds to me like she was liberated from money focus, and now wants to bless others. Heart and financial change working together.  The next Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University Class starts September 9th at Vineyard Columbus, and you can check it out first by attending the first class free, or the preview class September 2nd at 7 pm. More information is online.

The Financial Peace University Class has been a blessing to me. It has helped me reorganize my priorities with my finances. Since taking the class I have been able to support A child Through the World Vision Organization on a monthly basis; I have doubled my contributions to the Vineyard and have been volunteering my time and some financial support to a non- profit group called A Kid Again that supports children with life threatening illnesses.

I have had more money to carry out random acts of kindness in my neighborhood as well. I have also taken out an insurance policy on my new granddaughter so that when it matures she will have $18,000 a year for four years to help pay for her college; a vehicle or other needs. I would have never been able to do all of the  things listed  had I not received the focus from the class and the faith that God will provide.

After taking the class, I realize how easy it is to lose your financial focus and how much stress it removes from your life when you have a plan. I have encouraged others to enroll in the class as it has been a blessing to me.

The class is just a beginning for many people. It opens people up to a new way of living, and a new perspective on finances. Dave isn’t right about everything; no one has all of the answers. But he helps steer people in the right direction with a ton of information. We provide additional resources and guidance, to not only help you get the most out of class, but to fill in any gaps from a spiritual perspective.

Jesus, Temporary Stuff & Heart Matters

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 21:5-6, Jesus is responding to the disciples asking if he was impressed with the church building that was constructed.

I’ll never forget the first time we walked into the brand new building the church constructed in 1991. Moving out of an old facility, and into freshly minted carpeted floors, and brightly painted walls, we were like children on Christmas morning. We were able to go from 4 services to 2, and the children had ample spaces for church school. Everything was clean and new. Like it was yesterday, I remember John, one of our associate pastors, speaking at the opening service. He said something to the effect that the new building was great, but it is not for worshiping us, but Jesus. And, although we were to take good care of it, we were not going to get upset if someone spilled coffee. These things will happen, and is not important. What John was communicating to me that morning, was that Jesus was to clean up our lives and we were not to worship the building.

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.” Luke 21:5-6

Does stewardship involve caring for homes, businesses and church buildings that we construct? It doesn’t seem like Jesus was very impressed at all about the temple in Jerusalem. Reading Matthew 23:27-28, he is more concerned with what is inside the church; you and me.  Furthermore, he cares less about our house and yard, and more about what is going on inside of us; in our minds and hearts. Our first call is to steward these things, not our material possessions. When believers neglect what’s most important, the sad fact is that buildings will eventually be destroyed or re-used for something else. You only have to look at abandoned businesses and churches in the inner city, and the Crystal Cathedral going belly-up, to witness this fact.

Does stewardship of material blessings have eternal ramifications: Many Christians make the assumption that since everything will eventually be destroyed and made new (Revelation 21:1-2), then we don’t have to worry about maintaining buildings or the environment. This is tragically wrong. Matthew 25:23 is one of the concluding sentences of the Parable of the Talents, indicating that how well we steward and work with temporary things, says something about our character and integrity. These two things do last into eternity, and have reward.

Do we worry too much about buildings, especially our homes? If I have a regret as a father, it would to have been more present like Mary and less like Martha (read Luke 10:38-42). If I had less concern about our house’s landscaping, remodeling and cleanliness, I would have had more energy and time for Jesus and my family. We have God’s grace in the messes of life, but we can’t ever get back lost opportunities from days past.

Are you a perfectionist? God is perfect, and loves order, shouldn’t our lives mirror that? Jesus didn’t worry much about appearances (read Isaiah 53:2). The home he grew up in was very modest. During his ministry, he had few belongings and only simple clothes and sandals. He was born during a messy time of civilization of unpaved roads, and lack of modern sanitation. Jesus came and provided grace, during a messy time in human development.

What does this have to do with Christian finances? Believers want to be more generous, and better at managing spending so that they can have less debt and more accumulated wealth. Change is hard. Materialism and perfectionism gets in the way. Worrying about the wrong things get in the way. Invite Jesus in to your finances, your plans and goals, and your priorities. Put your heart into his hands, and let him direct your paths (see Psalm 119:105). Take a moment to talk to Jesus about this.

*This Monday blog post is a chronological walk through of the four gospels, examining any verse that involves money and stewardship.  This is the sixtieth post in this series.

Gifts from Jesus Come in Many Forms

I love this Tuesday testimony, because it simply communicates Jesus’ heart of generosity and his intimate knowledge of us. He loves us, and knows and loves what makes us tick. Likewise, Jesus shows himself in many form to us throughout every day, and often it’s through the generosity of others.

A large part of my life has included music in a huge way. Before I was a Christian I was a professional singer and flutist then as a Christian ministered in worship teams and even helped build and work with contemporary worship programs in Ukraine as a missionary for eight years. Being involved in music has always been important to me. Then, about six years ago, opportunities to serve the Lord and participate in music dried up as I was led in different directions for service and life in general.  A few years back I was particularly disheartened over this but really didn’t share my pain with anyone.  We had just finished putting in a family room at our home Christmastime of 2011. I had hoped to have a piano in that room, but knew there was not room in the budget. Then, on Christmas Eve, the day after the furniture came for the room, a friend showed up at our door with a beautiful new electronic piano. She said the Lord told her to buy it for me. I was so thankful, and knew from that experience – that the Lord meets with me where I am. The obedience and generosity of a friend became Jesus to me at that time.

This is encouraging to me, and likewise reminds me to be more aware of Jesus.

Jesus and the Famous Generous Poor Widow

templeThis week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 20:46-47 and 21:1 – 4, Jesus makes the central point of two teachings, about poor widows.

Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely. Luke 20:46-47

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1 – 4

There is a lot to glean from these verses. In the first set, Jesus shows his disdain for religious people walking around looking rich and important, as they stroll about in business, attend dinner parties and synagogue, and who sound spiritual. These same people Jesus said devour widows.

In today’s day-and-age, Jesus would be talking to people in church who have financial abundance, show-off their wealth, and try to be admired in public gatherings. Jesus isn’t against wealthy people, but he is not happy with those who get wealthy at the expense of the poor. Jesus highly favors the needy, and announced his earthly ministry in Luke 4:18-19 as good news to the poor. Throughout scripture, we can see heavenly favor on the poor, widows, orphans, immigrants and prisoners. The gospel isn’t about some redistribution of wealth program, but a plan for the hearts and minds of mankind. He is calling those with wealth to provide for the poor, and to give them opportunity to make a good wage to provide for themselves, even at some expense to their own standard of living.

In Luke 21:1-4, we see Jesus sitting as the Rabbis did. He was sitting close to the offering box and watched it closely. From the description, we can tell that he closely observed each person dropping in their money. The poor widow dropped in two very small copper coins, with a value of 1/8 of one cent. How else could Jesus have seen that small act, if he wasn’t sitting close to it.  He observed the act, and had spiritual insight into each person’s heart. He rejoiced in the heart of the widow giving it all to God out of love and devotion. This unnamed person is one of the few people Jesus praised, and because of her act of faith and small but huge gift, has been famous for about 2,000 years. On the other hand, he saw the wealthy who only gave a small portion comparatively of their overall wealth. Have you ever had the internal conversation go like this, when writing out a check of tithe, or a charitable donation of any amount: “Oh I better not give too much, I do want to be a good steward, and not ding my financial net worth too much.” I don’ t think the poor widow had this conversation, she came to worship, and gave her all.

The take away for these verses is not only that the heart of the Jesus follower is inclined to the poor, but to give with a heart like the poor widow. Jesus is closely watching at our giving actions and into our hearts just like he did those many years ago in the synagogue. I am not saying this, to put our spirituality into some performance formula or anything else but to say that our giving, our helping and our employing others is important to Jesus, something we ought to take seriously. Have a conversation with Jesus about these matters, and see what he might reveal about your heart and where he might lead you.

Interesting side note. This blog post I make most Mondays, are a chronological walk through of the four gospels, examining any verse that involves money and stewardship. Coincidentally, my Pastor Rich Nathan preached on this same story, but from Mark 12:41-44, just yesterday; to watch this great teaching click here. This is the fifty-ninth post in this series.

Two Tuesday Testimonies About God Providing Financially

Today, I have two testimonies about God providing. The first one comes from someone I have been doing some budget counseling with, and they are wonderful sweet people. I’m so very proud of their hard work and commitment. The husband just told me about the blessing they recently received. This is what I recall from our conversation:

We are working through our budget, trying to follow it well. We are tracking spending on www.mint.com, but we made a few unplanned purchases perhaps we shouldn’t have, but we were not discouraged but more committed to getting it right.  I prayed to God; “Lord you know my heart, and am asking you for help with our expenses, let us find some money.” Later that day, we were in the car going somewhere, we came to an intersection and stopped. I looked over, and there on the pavement I saw Benjamin Franklin’s picture. I was in the passenger seat and jumped out of the car, to pick up the blessing of a $100 bill. No one was around to claim it, and knew in my heart this was God’s blessing. We were able to fill up our car with gas and replenish our kitchen with food. – Anonymous

The second testimony was emailed to me a while back, from a friend.

“To pay for seminary, I needed to make some financial decisions.  One was to keep my old car…15 years old…believing that God would provide a way to get a newer one in the future.  After seminary, I still needed to make financial sacrifices to pursue the goals that God had for me.  So the car got older…18 years old ….  but it got me where I needed to go.  I was grateful.  In September 2012, I felt like God wanted me to start praying for someone to give me a car.    I thought I would win a contest or something.  Nothing happened that I could see.  So I put the prayers “on the shelf” and continued to be grateful that I only had to drive 8 miles a day.   In March, of 2013 my 19-year-old car had the brakes go out and would require $1000 brake job.  I asked God what to do since I did not have the money.  My next door neighbor came forward and told me that God had told her to give me her car (a 6-year-old car in perfect condition).  I offered to pay what I could, but she said that God had told her to give it to me for free.  I gave my older car to the mechanic who had always taken care of me.  He was overwhelmed, knowing that he could fix it for the cost of parts and give it to his son who was in a bad place.  My neighbor’s act of generosity gave me so much courage that God would always be there for me.  Whenever I see my mechanic, he is still amazed at God’s provision to him and his son. God is always amazing in his generosity.” – Anonymous

God provides and is generous. Pray to him, with a grateful heart, bring him your needs and wants and don’t give up.

Taking a Financial Class Was the Beginning of Transformational Faith

Tuesday Testimony, about how a great guy’s financial and faith life was totally transformed after he took Dave Ramsey Financial University at Vineyard Columbus. Our next class starts the 2nd Tuesday in September. For more information and sign-up click here.

Here is my family’s story of great generosity from other believers through God’s power:

After attending the Dave Class, we went Gazelle intense for about 2 years.  We didn’t buy clothes.  We ate the “beans and rice” diet.  I worked 5 jobs.  We were paying off a lot of debt, but not enough.  Despite all our effort, we still ran up against the wall and didn’t have enough for our minimum credit card payments.

My wife was in tears.  She couldn’t make the math work to pay all our bills.  We were going to default.  I’m usually the one to fall apart when finances go south.  God pressed upon my heart to not worry and to pray for provision.  I felt a tremendous peace on my heart.  I KNEW that God would provide.

Literally, the next day I went to my weekly Guys Night (fellowship) with some of my closest friends.  At the end of the night, one of my friends handed me a check.  He said that he, his wife and my other friend felt God pressing on their hearts to give us this money.  I gave them a hug and didn’t look at the check.  I said I didn’t want to open it until I was with my wife.

I went home and my wife and I opened it.  It was a check for $6,000 dollars.  It covered ALL our credit cards and took a nice chunk out of the next debt in our snowball.  We cried for a long time.  I remember my wife repeating over and over, “They can’t do this..”.

I have to hold tight to this memory.  Since this time, we rapidly went back to trying to follow Dave’s plan and force our way out of debt under our own effort.  We have been on baby step 2 of the Dave plan for 5 years.  Due to my wife’s and son’s disability, we have not been able to knock out our last debt, my student loan.  We honestly questioned Dave’s plan because it doesn’t seem to be working for us.

Recently, I have come to understand that Dave’s plan isn’t the issue.  We are in God’s plan and he is the one providing for us.  An overlooked part of Financial Peace University is this; when everything else fails, pray to your Father in Heaven.  He loves you and wants to provide for you and that’s what I’m holding on to now.   I’m taking the wisdom on how to handle money from Financial Peace University and praying to God in my deep helplessness to provide for my family’s needs.  I’ve been learning through all of this that all generosity comes from God, and that’s where I’m placing my trust. – Anonymous

Jesus Loves Business, But…

This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke. In Luke 19:45-46. We see Jesus rebuking people selling in church, yet in Luke 19:12-27, Jesus tells a parable that seems to have blessed the combination of responsible investing, hard work and stewardship- all elements of business ownership.

I think Jesus loves capitalistic, entrepreneurs; business owners. They work hard, show their faith and trust in action through tough risk. They use and expand their God-given talents. Business fails more often than it succeeds, and God uses failure to teach and grow us more than success. Business owners create jobs, provide health and other benefits, enabling people to work hard to provide for their families. Entrepreneurs give back to society through charitable donations, business is financially healthy for communities, and they often invest in other businesses that have the same benefits.  The Pope recently commented some about the negative sides of  big business; exploiting the poor and ruining the environment. This is true at times, however business and capitalism isn’t immoral – it always comes down to the motivations of its leaders. Sounds like to me, they need the influence of Jesus and from other Christian business owners.

I’ve even heard some people in the faith community say they prefer a more socialistic system, that provides for the poor better. However, capitalistic democracies like the U.S. provide more for the world’s poor, than any other system. Is it any wonder, people from other countries are pouring into our country through our southern border? Where else do you see this except in war-torn areas? Corruption and immorality of its leaders will always exist in any type of economic or political system, but in socialistic systems there is always more poverty. Checked democracy and capitalism, although far from perfect, is just the most efficient system of freedom and distribution of goods and wealth.

So back to the Bible verse noted at the beginning, Luke 19:46-47: When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Was Jesus condemning business people selling stuff; putting down capitalism or entrepreneurship? Was Jesus saying that business was unholy? I don’t think Jesus was saying these things at all. Jesus was disgusted that a place of worship was being used as a means to make a profit. He hated that faith was being used, either for worshipers or leaders as a way to line either of their pockets. The main focus of church should be the trinity, and not our financial profitability.

So how do we reconcile Luke 19:46-47 and Luke 19:12-27? One on hand Jesus is quite harsh on those whose main faith motivation is for financial gain. Yet in the earlier verses in Luke, he praises good business stewards. In the technology sector, we hear about “China Walls.”  Chinese paper walls are thin; sound and light travels through them. Each room is connected, yet separated by thin walls. For Christians, our China walls should be the checking of our heart’s motivations. Our faith should influence how we operate in business, and business is good for faith as well. However the litmus test is to ask ourselves; “from where do our motivations come?” We should err on the side of caution.

Business owners are under great pressure. In many business sectors, profit margins are low, costs of supplies and human resources are high, and business is extremely competitive. Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft, said that intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana; and all business owners know that they have to keep changing and work hard to maintain competitiveness. At the end of the day, business owners need  a growing faith to survive, so their work lives need to become more closely aligned with faith, yet to be extremely alert to the motivations of their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).

*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, from the four Gospels, with this approach: Jesus is shepherding us in our finances, for our good, to help us help others and for the Kingdom. Jesus leads us with grace through this difficult area of life, and empowers us with the Holy Spirit to do amazing things. This is the fifty-seventh post in this series.